Worker Pleads Guilty to Abusing Inmates at US Women's Prison

By MICHAEL R. SISAK and MICHAEL BALSAMO, Related Press

A former worker at a federal ladies’s jail in California pleaded responsible Thursday to fees he sexually abused at the least two inmates, the primary conviction in a wave of arrests at a lockup recognized to prisoners and staff as “the rape membership.”

Ross Klinger, 36, is certainly one of 4 workers, together with the warden and chaplain, who’ve been arrested in up to now seven months for sexually abusing inmates on the federal correctional establishment in Dublin, California. A number of different Dublin staff stay underneath investigation.

Klinger, a former Dublin jail recycling technician, pleaded responsible in federal court docket in Oakland to 3 counts of sexual abuse of a ward. He faces as much as 15 years in jail, although in different instances the sentences have ranged from three months to 2 years. Klinger stays free pending sentencing. A standing convention is scheduled for Could 11.

Klinger signed a plea settlement in connection together with his responsible plea, however the doc was not printed to the general public docket. A court docket official mentioned it was sealed. As a result of the settlement will not be public, it’s not clear whether or not it features a clause requiring him to cooperate with authorities. In a court docket submitting final month, prosecutors mentioned a few of their proof pertained to each Klinger and Warden Ray J. Garcia’s instances.

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Klinger’s lawyer, John Paul Reichmuth, declined remark.

An Related Press investigation printed this week discovered a permissive and poisonous tradition on the jail, enabling years of sexual misconduct by predatory workers and cover-ups which have largely stored the abuse out of the general public eye.

FCI Dublin, about 21 miles (34 kilometers) east of Oakland, was opened in 1974. It was transformed in 2012 to certainly one of six women-only services within the federal jail system.

Klinger was arrested final June and accused of sexually abusing at the least two inmates between March and September 2020, together with inside a warehouse and in a transport container on jail grounds whereas one other inmate acted as a lookout.

Klinger instructed the ladies he wished to marry them and father their kids, even proposing to certainly one of them with a diamond ring after she was discharged to a midway home, prosecutors mentioned.

One other prisoner conscious of the abuse reported Klinger to the Bureau of Prisons in June 2020, in response to the FBI. Klinger was nonetheless allowed to switch to a federal jail in San Diego months later.

After the switch, prosecutors mentioned, Klinger stored contacting one of many victims by means of an e-mail handle he created with a phony identify, generally sending lewd messages referencing sexual acts. He messaged the opposite girl on Snapchat, saying he cherished her and was “keen to do something” for her.

Interviewed by investigators in April 2021, Klinger denied any wrongdoing, however mentioned that due to the allegations his life was over and that he was involved about going to jail and being labeled as a intercourse offender. He was arrested two months later.

“Sexual misconduct of a ward, you possibly can’t come again from that,” Klinger instructed investigators within the interview, in response to court docket paperwork. He was positioned on administrative depart at the moment.

One other Dublin jail worker, chaplain James Theodore Highhouse, is scheduled to plead responsible Feb. 23 to fees he put his penis on an inmate’s genitals, mouth and hand and masturbated in entrance of her in 2018 and 2019. Highhouse, 49, can be accused of mendacity to investigators when questioned concerning the abuse.

The now-retired warden, Garcia, was arrested in September on fees he molested an inmate and made her and one other inmate strip bare as he did rounds. Photos he took of the ladies had been discovered on his government-issued cellular phone, prosecutors mentioned.

John Russell Bellhouse, a jail security administrator, is scheduled to be arraigned this month on fees he sexually abused an inmate he referred to as his “girlfriend” from February to December 2020.

The federal jail system has been affected by myriad crises lately, together with sexual abuse and different widespread prison exercise amongst workers, critically low staffing ranges which have hampered responses to emergencies, the fast unfold of COVID-19, a failed response to the pandemic and dozens of escapes.

On Twitter, observe Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak and Michael Balsamo at twitter.com/mikebalsamo1 and ship confidential suggestions by visiting https://www.ap.org/suggestions

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